Teacher of Chinese Among Best in World

Minqi Zhu, who teaches Chinese at Poly High School, has won a worldwide award for designing curriculum.

Zhu earned the International Chinese Educators Curriculum Design Award, given by the Chinese government and its Education Ministry.  He was selected from an initial pool of 591 educators worldwide. That pool was narrowed to 17 winners, including Zhu. Only two other teachers from the United States earned the honor, which required a videotaped teaching demonstration. He accepted the award recently in Beijing, where the Chinese government paid for his lodging.

"I was so excited," Zhu said. "I think it’s not my own award, though. It’s for the whole school and the students."

Zhu was the only teacher to use his own book in his teaching demonstration.  He created the book based upon his 14 years of teaching at Poly.  His book, “Learning to Speak Chinese through Contextualized Dialogues,” reflects his personal approach to teaching, especially at more advanced levels such as Advanced Placement Chinese.

“It’s a little different from the standard textbook.  I don’t teach vocabulary or sentence structure.  I teach conversation and communication,” Zhu said.  “I just make everyone happy.  They learn when they’re happy.  Learning this exotic language is not easy for Long Beach students.  It also involves improving their understanding of Chinese culture.”

Zhu’s colleagues speak highly of him.

“He’s the quintessential educator,” said Jeff Inui, director of the Pacific Rim and Center for International Curriculum academies at Poly.  “You couldn’t ask for a more dedicated teacher.”  Zhu teaches in both of the academies at Poly, where a focus on international languages helps students when they hit the job market.

“China is the largest market and has great potential,” Zhu said.  “My students can benefit and find a job there or here – even in Long Beach they have shipping companies from China.”

Last summer, Zhu took 13 students to China as part of a trip sponsored by the Chinese government.  Zhu was able to arrange for the trip through the Confucius Institute at UCLA, where he is an advisory board member.

Zhu taught English in China for nine years before arriving at Poly, where he teaches five levels of Mandarin.  He holds a master’s degree in theatre arts and a Ph.D in East Asian studies.  For five years, he also taught Chinese during the summer at the University of Pennsylvania School of Business.